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Guest Post: Finding a Rare POV on a Familiar Global Issue in ‘Waiting for August’

Guest Post: Finding a Rare POV on a Familiar Global Issue in 'Waiting for August'

There have been many discussions in the film industry lately about the stubborn imbalance against women’s representation in cinema. Although we have gone a long way in the
right direction, there is undeniably still space for improvement. 

I
believe that men are not out to “get us” and that the great majority
of them are sensitive to the female point of view, as I think most have important women in their lives, whom they love and respect.
But somehow, as a society, we are still a bit stuck in that censuring comfort
zone of set role patterns, where female voices are more scarce in the
creative process of filmmaking. That is why every one of us should become aware of and
tackle our own set of
prejudices, so that people with passion can get opportunities, regardless of their
sex. 

Giving a platform to those who deserve it, but whom we seldom hear from, is a red thread
in my filmmaking as well. In my first feature, the documentary Waiting for August, I
wanted to tell the story of seven Romanian siblings whose mother had to leave them
behind to work abroad and sustain her family. The film follows the children
in their daily life during the nine long months of parental absence.

Stories
of migration are not uncommon, but they are mostly told from the point of
view of the ones leaving. The ones who are left behind, in contrast, rarely get heard.
That is why I wanted to give them a voice.

I identify on a very personal
level with this story, as my parents, too, had to leave me behind at the
fragile age of seven. Our context was very different: We were living
in communist Romania, and my parents found no other way to flee the country than to leave me behind as a kind of proof to the intelligence agencies that they
would return.

My parents left me in very good hands, with relatives, hoping they would find a way for us to reunite soon after they obtained political
asylum. Achieving the reunion proved quite complicated, though, and it took over
a year of diplomatic interventions for us to see each other again. That long wait and the uncertainty around the whole situation weighed on me so much back then.

With this personal background, I could not fail to
notice how history was repeating itself in the country of my birth, with the
difference that nowadays kids are being left behind by their parents not for
political reasons, but for economic ones. Yet the impact on the children
remains. Economic migration is a social phenomenon in today´s Romania, in
Eastern Europe, and in many other parts of the world, so the subject matter is
of great relevance and importance.

I did not just coincidentally choose to focus my film Georgiana, a fifteen-year-old girl who had been delegated the heavy responsibilities of managing the
household and keeping her six siblings afloat while her mother is away. I was in
complete awe seeing her oscillate between these adult responsibilities and her
own need to be an adolescent. She is a remarkable young woman, like many women
out there, who achieve extraordinary
things that mostly go unnoticed. 

The approach I opted
for in telling Georgiana´s story was one that goes a bit against general
expectations. I could have approached it from a more obvious, sensationalist
angle, by pointing fingers and going for shock value. It is always easier
to get a response from an audience by shocking them, but as Tom Waits would
say, “I always take the long way home.” I never take the easy way out, so I
chose to leave sensationalism far behind and focus on what truly touches me — namely the strength, courage, and resilience of this teenage girl and her
siblings, despite their harsh conditions and the fragile balance of their daily
lives.  

I didn´t find it
necessary to take viewers by the hand and tell them what to think, or when and why
to think it. In my filmmaking, I prefer to give people all the elements of the
plot bit by bit and let them put together the pieces of the puzzle to ultimately
understand the broader picture. I like to give the audience the freedom to notice and interpret the subtleties of what they see. It may be a challenging way of narrating, but I
think we generally tend to underestimate audiences in their capacity to understand and appreciate this kind of narrative technique. Waiting for August is my invitation to the viewer to observe
the details, because I do believe that beauty lies in detail and nuance. 

Please accept my
invitation, see the film, let the story touch you, and, who knows, maybe we can
make a difference by breaking taboos and shining a light on social realities that
can be changed if we want it enough. 

Teodora Ana Mihai
was born in Bucharest, Romania, under its Communist regime. In 1989 she came to
Belgium and was reunited with her parents, who had fled the year before.
Inspired by her father’s passion for photography, she discovered her love for
the Seventh Art as a teenager and followed her passion, going to study film at
Sarah Lawrence College in upstate New York. After directing the award-winning
documentary
Waiting for August, she is now developing a docu-fiction film about
teenage orphans of the Mexican drug war in collaboration with the Mexican writer
Habacuc Antonio de Rosario.

Waiting for August opened in LA at the Laemmle Royal last Friday, October 3rd, and is opening this Friday, October 10th, at the
QUAD Cinema
 in NYC. For more information, visit the official site.

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